Posts Tagged ‘Peter Singer’

A challenging thought experiment

October 28, 2011

As I’ve written before, the philosophy of Peter Singer grosses me out. A new article in Commonweal describes Singer’s new openness to engage with Christian ethicists who profoundly disagree with him—and suggests that maybe there are some points of agreement after all. I have no idea, and that’s not really what interests me about this article.

What interests me is Singer’s “shallow pond” thought experiment, which the article describes briefly. My question is, How should a Christian answer this thought experiment? Or… Can we answer it in a way that wouldn’t require a dramatic change in our lifestyle? Just think about it.

Singer’s famous “shallow pond” thought experiment is in some ways similar, both in form and purpose, to the parable of the Good Samaritan. (In the thought experiment, Singer asks the reader what he or she would think if someone decided not to rescue a drowning child because it would require them to ruin a pair of expensive shoes. If you think that is terribly selfish, then, says Singer, you should also find it terribly selfish for people to buy those expensive shoes in the first place when they could instead send the money they’re spending on the shoes to an international relief organization.)